Friday, October 30, 2015

Let’s Social Dance! It’s A Sport That Lasts A Lifetime!

Touching hands, moving feet, having fun, to the beat.  That’s the essence of Social Dance.  It unites us with each other and the music. It teaches us rhythm and coordination.  It puts a smile on our face and a glow in our hearts.  Once learned, people can experience the sweet satisfaction of Social Dance throughout their lifetime.

So why don’t our schools and colleges do more to teach and promote Social Dance?  Why do we pour tons of time, money, and energy into “competitive sports programs” and “performance dance classes” which have predictably resulted in a “spectator society” of overweight couch potatoes?

In contrast, Social Dance can take place literally anywhere, is relatively injury-free, and doesn’t need any special equipment other than a boom box.  And it’s not rocket science.  In fact, the steps are pretty simple.  You can go to YouTube for lots of free instructional videos. Here's a PSA (public service announcement) I did a few years ago on this subject --   

How would it work?  Take elementary schools, for example.  They could teach Square, Folk, and English Country dancing for grades kindergarten thru 5, and then add Social Dance (i.e., Latin, Fox Trot, Cha Cha, etc.) to the program for the students in grades 6 thru 12.  Schools could also hire professional teachers to come in and teach the class. 

In fact, there is already a non-profit organization, Dancing  Classrooms, that does just that.  DC sends “teaching artists” into schools to teach grades 5 and 8, mainly.  They are in many cities and countries and are doing a good job overall, although I have a couple of criticisms.  

First, DC supports a competition at the end of the 10-week session, which tends to defeat the purpose of promoting a cooperative environment. Social dance should offer students an oasis from our overly competitive culture, not another unnecessary hurdle to overcome.    

And secondly, DC prefers not to teach high school students, just the age group who could benefit from Social Dance lessons the most.  It is such a positive and socializing influence that older students desperately need, particularly when the music is uplifting and everyone participates, as in Contra dancing.

Frankly, all educational institutions, including college, should teach social dance at some point during the school year.  Some schools already have it as part of their curriculum, but it should be taught to all students every year.  

Image result for swing danceSo, put some balance into our athletic programs!  Get Sensical and Let's Dance!  It’s A Sport That Lasts A Lifetime!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Follow The Yellow Brick Road vs Pavement's Many Problems

Jessup, my street in Philly
Let's hit the bricks!  Really. The time for bricks (i.e., pavers) on our streets and sidewalks has come and gone… and come back again!  We’ve wasted enough time and resources on pavement.   Pavement doesn’t work.  And it doesn’t matter if the pavement is made of asphalt or concrete.

This is a subject close to my heart for a couple of reasons.  I’m old enough to have witnessed hundreds of roads, both in the suburbs and city, getting repaved repeatedly.  And then the inevitable happens.  That silky smooth surface barely lasts a month before someone is digging it up to lay a pipe or cable or something.  I always shake my head and think, “What a waste. When will they learn?” 

Then in 2012, I had my chance to do something about it.  My husband Cliff and I founded a group to help repair and restore old small streets.  It’s called The Philadelphia Society of Small Streets ( And that's what really propelled me (pardon the pun) down the road and into “pavers” as the best solution to our current 'street construction calamity'.

What's wrong with pavement?  Just about everything.  Pavement has 5 things going against it.  First and foremost, it hides any subsidence occurring underground until it become dangerous, if not catastrophic.  Think deep sinkholes and giant wormholes created from stormwater runoff and/or leaky pipes.  Second, pavement cannot be easily or ‘quietly’ removed without the use of heavy equipment, thereby creating vibration problems for nearby structures, including buildings above and utilities below.  Third, pavement cracks.  Any repairs made to pavement inevitably creates an uneven patchwork quilt that is both unsightly and unsafe for pedestrians and vehicles alike.  Fourth, in the case of asphalt, it's basically toxic waste product of the petroleum industry.  In the case of concrete, it can also be risky if it includes toxic incinerator ash.  And fifth, pavement increases storm water runoff.  To sum up, both asphalt and concrete pavement present inordinate structural, aesthetic, environmental, and health problems.

On the other hand, pavers (if not made of toxic asphalt or toxic concrete) are fairly easy peasy. Almost anyone can lay them.  It's not rocket science, although it should be done with care. For a good example of "paver street construction”, the Netherland’s model seems a good bet.  Keep in mind, the foundation should not be made of concrete, otherwise you’d be repeating the mistakes of pavement. Instead, the foundation should consist of 15 inches of pulverized concrete (although we prefer "modified aggregate" stones) and on top, 2-6 inches of sand of good quality, not like the sand on a beach (although we have used screenings from the aggregate stones instead). And the pavers should fit close together. See:  (Not a product endorsement) 

The great thing about pavers is that they serve as an "early warning system" for any subsidence problems below ground.  They just start to slowly collapse into the hole, giving city officials and property owners a chance to fix things before people, cars, and building start disappearing into a potentially vast cavern beneath the pavement, something that appears to happening in Pennsylvania with increased frequency. See -  / 

Then you have the advantages pavers hold in the area of stormwater runoff.  Pavers, in combination with an aggregate foundation, allow for a reasonable amount of permeability. I call it "the slow-soak" method.  That's in contrast to Philadelphia's "Green Street" model for Philly's small streets.  In that case, the city is using asphalt which is not "green" at all, but instead quite toxic.  Secondly, it actually creates a cistern under the streets, using clean stones and lined on either side of the road with plastic, that they claim will protect nearby basements from water damage.  However, typically plastic liners, even landfill liners, are only 1/10 of an inch thick and are vulnerable to cracking and breaking due to heat and cold, wear and tear. Our research shows that buried "impermeable" plastic liners only last from 15-20 years. Not good news for homeowners. 

We're not just talking about streets here.  Pavement on sidewalks creates the same situation.  So, how do you lay a sidewalk?   Some people use aggregate, sand, and/or screening, although in much smaller amounts than for "paver street construction" due to lighter loads and usage.  Other people, like in my neighborhood, just use the soil that they have on site.  It depends on conditions.  

Camac in better days
Lastly, I haven’t mentioned wood pavers, but there is an interesting history of using wood on streets in many countries, including the U.S. in the early 1800’s. We put together a special webpage for wood streets,  However, it appears from our research that wood streets around the world have been poorly built, historically. 

There is evidence that the wrong type of wood was used to make the wood blocks (usually pine or oak), and those wood blocks were often placed upon impermeable foundations. We’ve suggested to the Streets Department in Philadelphia that they consider experimenting with more appropriate woods, such as Black Locust, Osage Orange, and maybe a local Cedar or Cypress.  So far, no deal, but we live in hope.  That said, there may be nothing stopping homeowners from installing wood sidewalks.  I haven’t checked on that with the Streets Department yet to see if its in code…because I just thought about it.  I think this is what's called an epiphany.  Feels good.

But the main point I’m trying to make is that pavers have it all over pavement when it comes to structural, aesthetic, environmental, and health advantages.  So, there you have it.  Leave the pavement behind.  Go follow that Yellow Brick Road. And Get Sensical!  

Monday, October 12, 2015

The World’s #1 Best Free Medicine? A Common Weed!

Announcing a free sample of the World’s #1 Medicine!  And all we need to do is bend over and pick it up.  What is it?  It’s a common weed in our yards and city sidewalks.  It’s called Plantago (aka, the PLANTAINnot the banana).  

Broad Leaf Plantain
That’s right folks.  That 'weed' we’ve been spraying with toxic chemicals and pugnaciously pulling out of our lawns for years is, in fact, a fantastic medicine for all kinds of ailments.  And chances are that your doctor has no idea it even exists. 

That’s our wacky world for you.  Where a common plant, that can relieve many common ailments for free, is virtually unknown. 

How did I find out about it?  Back in 2010 I decided that it would be fun to start a ‘collaborative’ meetup to learn about wild edible plants.  We joyfully call ourselves The Wild Foodies of Philly (  We soon learned that Plantains are a common wild edible (the young leaves and green seeds taste like mushrooms) and found all over the globe. 

But Plantains have a wide range of medicinal properties, as well.   

Narrow Leaf Plantain
It's seeds have long been used in commercial laxatives and dietary fiber products, while hikers and foragers use the leaves mainly for bug bites and scrapes.

However, the Plantain is a much bigger deal than that.  Plantain is a very effective antibiotic, antimicrobial, antifungal, antiseptic, antiviral, antitoxin, coagulant, expectorant, and healer of wounds and burns, etc.. 

Basically, the Plantain is great for lots of health issues, both internally and externally.  There are two varieties, the broad leaf and narrow leaf, and I’m not aware of a big difference between the two. 

However, there are some cautions regarding the use of Plantains.  For instance, people on blood thinners may not want to ingest a lot of plantain on a regular basis, as it is a coagulant.  It also can be very drying, which is another reason I don’t overuse it, either by drinking plantain water or applying it to my skin.  

I started experimenting with Plantain a few years ago, not only for my family's ailments, but also for other personal and household uses.  On the health front, I read online and found from first-hand experience that Plantain is very effective for diverticulitis, hemorrhoids, sore throats, swollen glands, colds, cuts, burns, nose bleeds, and nail fungus.  

For general use, I make ‘Plantain water’ to sip or apply externally.  I take about a square inch of a leaf and a cup of water, put in a blender (or you can mash it), and then sieve out the fiber.  I make it stronger or weaker depending on the situation.  

In addition to using it medicinally, I also add the Plantain water to my bath to wash my skin and hair.  That’s all I normally use, no soaps or oils.  Again, plantain can be drying to the skin, so a little bit goes a long way. 

Because Plantain has antibiotic/antiseptic properties, I thought it would also work for my laundry and sometimes stinky clothes (those smells can be due to bacteria buildup on the fibers).  I started using it for my laundry in both the wash and rinse cycles. That’s when I found out that Plantain water makes a great clothes softener, particularly for the sweaters that I knit.  (For detergent I use a teaspoon of buckwheat or rice flour in a cup of water.)

I’ve used Plantain water to wash my dishes, plus you can braid the fibers of the Plantain and make a sort of very thin twine. I’m not sure what that’s good for, but it’s interesting.  Frankly, I'm always experimenting with all kinds of foods and plants for personal and household use. 

Anyway, Plantain can be easily dried and stored for year-round use, though I’m not sure how that affects its medicinal effectiveness. I’ll find out this winter. That said, the Plantain is usually growing for most of the year, particularly the narrow leaf variety, although it does shrink back a lot in the cold weather.

So, there you have it.  The best things in life are free.  Now go out and Get Sensical!  Get to know our common and caring Plantain - The World’s #1 Medicine!

Sunday, October 4, 2015


This blog is about us...and what we can do to about this wacky world we live in. Great things are happening for sure. But there’s lots of loopiness as well. And that’s what this blog is about. For many issues, big and small, craziness goes unchallenged. Most people won’t stand up and speak out. It’s a human thing. But we need to get over that. Particularly if we want a livable life. 

So I’m devoting this weekly blog to documenting the “nonsensical” in today’s world and inviting you to join me in suggesting some “sensical” solutions. Yes, I know that “sensical” is not an official word according to Webster’s. But, “sensible” sounds too much like “settling” for something less than what common sense requires. Besides, “sensical” may give a much-needed boost to the practice of critical thinking, highlighting the nonsensical situations we mindlessly put up with, but shouldn’t. 

As we address a wide range of topics, from small stuff to big deals, I warn you, I’m a big fan of The Earth and self-reliance (on a personal, local, and national basis). So expect a “green”, DIY, fair trade, survivalist, and protectionist theme to this blog. But I'm into lots of other things as well.  Expect the unexpected.  Every week I’ll post a new blog. Now let’s get on with the show and Get Sensical!

Lynn Landes
Philadelphia, PA